UN warns of crimes against humanity in northern Iraq

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This family fled the fighting in Mosul, Iraq, and are close to the Khazair checkpoint. They hope to stay in Erbil city until it is safe to return home. Photo: UNHCR/R. Nuri

The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) is warning that the forcible displacement of civilians in northern Iraq may constitute a crime against humanity.

Tens of thousands of civilians from the Yezidi community and other minority groups have taken refuge in the Sinjar mountains on the border with Syria escaping violence unleashed on them by the militant group Islamic State in Iraq.

Aid agencies say the humanitarian situation for the displaced population is dire with many families trapped in the mountains without food, water or any contacts with the outside world.

Ravina Shamdasani is the spokesperson for the UN human rights office in Geneva.

"Widespread or systematic attacks directed against any civilian populations because of their ethnic background, religion or belief may constitute a crime against humanity. All parties, including ISIL and associated armed groups, must abide by international humanitarian law, including the obligation to protect the civilian population. We call on the international community and the Governments of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of civilians, in particular those belonging to the vulnerable communities."

The International Organization for Migration(IOM) says over a million Iraqis have been displaced since the beginning of the year with over half of them being displaced in the past two months.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration 1.22″

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